New health and lifestyle challenges that come with a steep price tag attached are among the most frustrating aspects of growing old. Retirees deserve to relax and enjoy themselves,
and aging seniors deserve to get the care they need, without undue financial stress and strain. It behooves seniors, retirees and pre-retir- ees and their families to get a head start on planning that will help them overcome the complex financial challenges that will arise as they age, particularly with regard to health care costs.
Chart your course
More than seven out of ten people will need long-term care at some point during their retirement. For Ohio seniors, sound wealth management and financial planning are based on understanding the way monetary needs can and do change over time. Healthy, active seniors and new retirees often focus primarily on tax, estate and retirement planning, not spending time to prepare for the possibil- ity of significant health care costs that will occur as they get older. Seniors of all ages need to be proactive about reviewing issues and finding solutions such as estate administration and long-term care insurance. Seniors must plan strategically if they are to protect their assets for themselves and their families.
For Ohio seniors and their families, choosing the right type of care for your spouse, parent or loved one is often one of the most diffi- cult decisions you will face. How do you know if in-home help for a few hours a day is enough, and how do you know when it is time to move your family member to an assisted living facility or to receive more invasive care? Where do you draw the line with health and safety issues, and how big of a role should affordability play in your decision-making process? These are difficult questions, often with no easy or simple answers. The following organizations provide an over- view of types of care that is available, the government agencies and the programs that may help pay for care, and an explanation of the different types of residential settings for seniors:
www.homecareohio.org; www.ohioaging.org; http://aging.ohio.gov/ services/ombudsman/regional.aspx; www.proseniors.org/
While these organizations are a great place to start, it is always important to consult an elder law attorney before making decisions that could have lasting financial impact. For example, while a pri- mary residence does not count against the $1,500 asset test to qualify for Medicaid in Ohio, there are estate recovery provisions that allow the state in some circumstances to recover some health care costs by placing a lien on the home. Work with an experienced elder law attorney to make sure your family can keep your home without exposing it to potential recovery by the state. Be creative
The expansion of Ohio’s popular Passport program, which provides seniors with Medicaid-funded home-based care has helped to more than quadruple the number of seniors receiving care at their homes since 1993. Securing funding for home care as an alternative to assisted living facilities or nursing homes is one way to ease the per- sonal and financial burden on aging seniors and their families.
Be ready for anything
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, seniors need to understand that there are no guarantees, and that programs and legislation are always changing. One dramatic example is the Medicaid Standard Utility Decrease, which went into effect on April 1, 2012. The change reduces the Ohio standard utility allowance applied to determine benefits for Medicaid and Food Assistance from $599 to $533 per month. While this reduction will ultimately have some effect on eligi- bility for various programs, including nursing home and waiver cases, the immediate impact of this change is an increase in the monthly patient liability owed by an institutionalized spouse. This more than offsets the recent (and long-awaited) Social Security cost of living increase of 3.6%.
The bottom line is that programs, legislation and financial circum- stances are always changing. Not only do seniors need to plan for the future, but also they must do so in a way that allows them maxi- mum financial flexibility. And, when it comes to long-term care and health care planning for yourself or your loved ones, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.